best basic moisturisers to soothe irritated skin

8 beauty editor-approved basic moisturisers to soothe and hydrate irritated skin

Posted by for Skincare

Sometimes simplicity is key, especially when it comes to nourishing and restoring skin – here’s five of our beauty editor’s favourites. 

It’s no secret that I’m very into skincare. I have a penchant for acids and I’m no stranger to strong retinoids, but sometimes – just sometimes – my skin needs a break, and that’s where the power of simplicity comes in. Fragrance-free and containing no actives, basic moisturisers are good for hydrating and nourishing skin as well as helping to rebuild the skin barrier.

Harley Street dermatologist Dr Sam Bunting agrees, saying: “Using a moisturiser is essential in my book – especially if you’re using active skincare like retinoids. They help replenish skin from the rough and tumble of life by replacing vital lipids, reducing water loss from the skin surface and ensuring skin stays supple and resilient.”

That’s not the only thing these type of moisturisers are good for, though. They can also be used to help buffer retinoids if you’re new to them, or if your skin is on the sensitive side. “Moisturiser can help ease dryness and reduce the risk of irritation,” says Dr Sonia Khorana. “For example, the ‘retinoid sandwich’ method, which involves a layer of moisturiser, followed by your retinoid, and finished with another layer of moisturiser. Studies have shown that the base layer of moisturiser does not dilute or reduce the efficacy of the active ingredients and helps with tolerability.”

Bunting agrees, adding, “It’s a method that I think everyone can benefit from and I find that very few people need experience dryness and irritation, also known as a ‘retinoid uglies’. Equipping people with these techniques also really builds confidence, and encourages more newbies to take the plunge.”

The key thing to take into account when shopping for a basic moisturiser is simplicity – it sounds easy, but as Khorana says, “I would advise skipping products that contain potential irritants – like fragrance – especially if your skin is sensitive or prone to eczema or rosacea. Look for ingredients such as glycerin or ceramides that help hydrate and protect the skin from the drying effects of a retinoid.”

To make things easier, here’s a round-up of my favourites…

The best basic moisturisers for irritated skin

  • Dr Sam’s Flawless Moisturiser Light

    dr sam's flawless moisturiser light review
    Best basic moisturisers: Dr Sam's Flawless Moisturiser Light

    Packed with ceramides, this is a lightweight moisturiser that’s suitable to use underneath SPF if you want to wear it during the day. It’s fragrance-free, non-comedogenic and isn’t on the heavy side so it can easily be layered up with other products if necessary.

    Shop Dr Sam’s Flawless Moisturiser Light, £22 at Dr Sam Bunting

  • Dr Jart+ Cicapair Tiger Grass Calming Gel Cream

    dr jart tiger grass calming gel cream review
    Best basic moistusiers: Dr Jart Tiger Grass Calming Gel Cream

    Now the weather’s a bit warmer, I’ve been reaching for this a bit more than usual. Technically not a cream but more of a gel-like formula, it’s really soothing and it’s brought my skin back from the brink of irritation numerous times. 

    Shop Dr Jart+ Cicapair Tiger Grass Calming Gel Cream, £30 at ASOS 

  • La Roche-Posay Toleraine Sensitive Crème

    la roche posay toleraine sensitive creme review
    Best basic moisturisers: La Roche-Posay Toleraine Sensitive Creme

    My all-time favourite, I’m never without multiple tubes of this. It’s got a traditional cream-like texture, it’s thicker than some but isn’t greasy or oily and absorbs into skin easily. It’s hydrating, nourishing and packed with kind-to-skin ingredients that really work to soothe irritation.

    Shop La Roche-Posay Toleraine Sensitive Crème, £16.50 at FeelUnique   

  • Medik8 HEO Mask

    medik8 heo mask review
    Best basic moisturisers: Medik8 HEO Mask

    The newest of the bunch, I can’t recommend this little pot of joy enough. The blue gel side is a humectant-packed formula, while the white cream side is rich in emollients and occlusives to protect and strengthen the skin while also banishing signs of dry and dehydrated skin.

    Shop Medik8 HEO Mask, £49 at Cult Beauty 

  • Milk Makeup Vegan Milk Moisturiser

    milk makeup vegan milk moisturiser review
    Best basic moisturisers: Milk Makeup Vegan Milk Moisturiser

    I love this, not just for the packaging but also for its supreme soothing benefits. It’s rich without being heavy on the oils, plus it’s formulated with squalane which helps balance oil levels – especially good for oily skin types – as well as protecting against environmental stressors, making this one a suitable for daytime (underneath SPF, of course). 

    Shop Milk Makeup Vegan Milk Moisturiser, £34 at Cult Beauty 

  • Sunday Riley Ice Ceramide Moisturising Cream

    sunday riley ice ceramide moisturizing cream review
    Best basic moisturisers: Sunday Riley Ice Ceramide Moisturizing Cream

    This is my winter go-to – the heaviest of the bunch but not greasy, it’s packed with ceramides (which restore the skin’s barrier) and always feels like a real treat to use.

    Shop Sunday Riley Ice Ceramide Moisturising Cream, £60 at ASOS 

  • Augustinus Bader The Rich Cream

    augustinus bader the rich cream review
    Best basic moisturisers: Augustinus Bader The Rich Cream

    I love the texture of this and the way it just cocoons my skin like nothing else. It’s rich in fatty acids which replenish lost moisture and antioxidants to protect against free radical damage. It’s expensive, yes, but worth every penny in my book (and not to be mistaken for the original ‘The Cream’ which has a much lighter texture).

    Shop Augustinus Bader The Rich Cream, £125 at SpaceNK 

  • Clinique Moisture Surge 100 Hour Auto-Replenishing Hydrator

    clinique moisture surge 100h auto replenishing hydrator review
    Best basic moisturisers: Clinique Moisture Surge 100h Auto Replenishing Hydrator

    A best-seller and much-loved favourite for a reason, despite having a relatively lightweight texture, it’s got serious moisturising power and is as equally good under makeup or worn alone. Packed with plumping hyaluronic acid and soothing aloe water, it’s a real skin saviour.

    Shop Clinique Moisture Surge 100 Hour Auto-Replenishing Hydrator, £25 at LookFantastic 

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Lucy Partington

Freelance beauty editor Lucy Partington is obsessed with all things skincare, collecting eyeshadow palettes that she'll probably never use, and is constantly on the hunt for the ultimate glowy foundation.